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Benzene

EPA tightens tailpipe emissions of cancer-causing chemicals

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: benzene, the EPA, vehicle emissions


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(NewsTarget) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new regulations on February 9 intended to reduce emissions of the toxic chemical benzene from a variety of gasoline sources.

The new standards do not take full effect until 2030, at which point they are expected to cut annual benzene emissions by 61,000 tons and overall toxic emissions by 330,000 tons.

Starting in 2009, the regulations require that fuel cans be tightened to reduce the escape of toxic fumes. The EPA said that it has worked closely with manufacturers to identify an inexpensive internal coating that will enable easy compliance. The agency anticipates a 78 percent decrease in benzene emissions from gas cans due to these measures.

As of 2010, car manufacturers must follow tighter standards for "non-methane hydrocarbon exhaust emissions," including benzene, for vehicles operating below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This is expected to reduce benzene emissions from automobiles by 45 percent.

By 2011, gasoline refiners will be required to meet a new benzene fuel content standard of 0.62 percent, as opposed to the current standard of 0.97 percent. California, which already has stricter standards for benzene content than even the new EPA rules, would not be affected.

Benzene, a carcinogen, is added to gasoline to decrease the frequency of improper combustion, which can lead to engine malfunction. Long-term exposure to even lower concentrations of the chemical has also been shown to cause reduced red-blood cell counts and anemia. Because engine emissions and regular, unavoidable spills of gasoline regularly introduce benzene and other toxic chemicals into the soil and water, it becomes a health concern even for those not directly working in the chemical industry.

Compliance with the new rules is expected to cost industry approximately $400 million. The EPA claims, however, that the stricter standards will lead to $6 billion in health-care savings by 2030.

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